Monday, September 28, 2009

Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go

God can be crafty sometimes.

I'm up late last night, working on various things. Therefore, when I had to get up for my 10am class, I was exhausted. I wanted to get up at 8am so that I could perhaps manage to get a small quiet time in. "Nope. Too tired. Sorry God." I rolled over like a dead animal and slept for another hour.

Rushing around like a dreary-eyed, constipated wiener-dog, my morning looked something like this: shower, getting books together, getting pens together, leaving my room, coming back to my room, getting a map of campus, leaving my room, coming back to my room, looking for my glasses, unable to find my glasses, leave the room again, come back again, get a water, leave the room for the last time.

I briskly speed walk towards my class (like one of those mom's you see in your neighborhood who want to stay in shape but don't want to have to work too hard so they keep their legs stiff and look like there's a catheter in the peter). I took out my class schedule and looked at what had the night before looked like 4 straight hours of classes. And I froze. It felt like time had stopped and someone had smashed my face with a colossal frying pan... I didn't have to go to ALL the hours, but 2 of them... but which two what dates were...

*second smack of colossal frying pan*

... all the classes but my 1:00 didn't start until next week... I felt more sheepish than a 10 year old American stuck on a European nude beach...

*third smack of the face with gargantuan frying pan*

Oh hey. My book is in my bag from last night. What a coincidence! *looks up at sky* I guess I can have that quiet time after all, huh God?... but seriously, did you have to drag me out of bed 3 hours early?? Couldn't you have maybe just done 2?

God always get his way, doesn't He?

- AustinLostinLondon

Hillsong, HTB, and Hobos

Today was a good day (minus the fact that I got as much sleep as if it were a weekday at Wake, I had two exams the next day, and a baby with intense intestinal cramps was sleeping - or lack thereof - next to me). I got up early to head over to church. It's Hillsong's church. For those who don't know what Hillsong is, its a Church in Australia that has a worship band that writes their own worship songs in a very rock sort of way. It's kinda like if Bono decided to retire from the Rock Music world and try to make it big in Worship music (only Bono's lyrics would probably be a little deeper than those of Hillsong - not to diss Hillsong of course, it's just that Bono is similar to that of a modern day Ghandi with a Guitar... maybe I'm stretching it...).

We showed up there 10 minutes early. I hadn't realized that they rented out the seemingly largest west end theater to hold this event... Not bad... There was a giant cross on the big screen, a cool, mellow mood from dimly colored lights, and everyone there seemed to be younger and very nice. The video at the beginning of the service was cool, state-of-the-art, and trendy. Yet, when the worship band came out, I felt like I had been transported from church to a Miley Cyrus concert. The songs I was unfamiliar with, the bright beam lights nearly blinded and blind-sided me, and the strobe light effect nearly sent me into epileptic shock... oh, and there was a young, really attractive girl on stage singing (yeah - i know - i would notice that). I was able to make the most of it, got to know the songs and sang them decently well, but there's just something about lots of lights and jumping up and down in a mosher's fashion that I'm just not comfortable with (thanks Presbyterian you-put-your-hand-in-the-air-you-die church - I kid, I love the Presbyterian church... but seriously, we're the frozen chosen...). Overall, by the end with the sermon and everything, I just didn't feel comfortable and at home. I feel like church is a place you should look enthusiastically forward to each and every week rather than have a sense of listless foreboding (similar to that of the death of Patrick Swayze - seriously, we all knew it was coming... too soon?... hmmmmm... maybe....). I needed more church today - which is exactly what I did that night (Church twice in one day! God forbid! - ironic? TOTALLY!).

To put it into simple terms: Holy Trinity Brompton = a;poijwafe;oiajwf;oajwf;oawjf;oaiwjfe!!!!! Or for you older readers: Holy Trinity Brompton = Groovy. HTB (no, that's not some sexual disease - it's short for Holy Trinity Brompton if that flew over your head) Worship was rock-ish, but not "OMG LET'S BLOW SOMETHING UP!" rock-ish. It was real. It reminded me of Emmaus. The fact that the speaker was able to incorporate a story of something he learned while he was hammered (before his Christian days), a woman was able to stand up in front of the crowd and openly talk about her days of eating disorder and suicidal thoughts prior to getting involved with HTB Church, and the pastor was able to break down Christianity in a deep way for both seeker and established church member, made this church feel like home. Everything was REAL. I think that's what I loved the most. The people, the worship, the atmosphere. It didn't need to play music in the background during prayer, it didn't need a flashy light show, it didn't need an auditorium with great acoustics - all it needed was Jesus. And I believe he was there tonight. On top of everything else, my reading list has three new books courtesy of the HTB Bookstore (this place just keeps racking up the cool points! - kinda like Will Ferrell before he made "Land of the Lost.").

Book List:
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis (CHECK!)
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (CHECK!)
Just Like Jesus by Max Lucado (CHECK!)
Desiring God by John Piper
The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning
Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell (NEW!)
Wild at Heart by John Eldridge (NEW!)
If You Want to Walk on Water You've Got to Get Out of the Boat by John Ortberg (NEW!)

I was especially intrigued by the last one. My dad recently gave me a two-part sermon series by John Ortberg on fearless giving and how everything we have on this earth is inherently God's. If all that we have in this life in the end goes "back into the box", back into the grave, and doesn't come with us into the afterlife, then why is it so hard for us to give it up? And why should we give it up? It was a great two sermon series that I plan on probably listening to again and taking notes on. Suffice to say, I'm now a fan. But here's his new question: In what ways is the Lord telling you, as he did Peter, "Come"?

Today I saw 8 hobos.

8 men with no home, no money, and only the clothes on their back.

They sit by train stations, bus stations, on the curb, on the sidewalk, on the street, begging for just a little spare change. The problem is we know that inevitably, they'll buy drugs, cigarettes, or boos with the money. Every single time I see one of those men, with a ragged beard, dirty fingernails, tattered wool cap, my heart yearns to help them. My heart aches to get down on my knee and ask them, "Hey... you wanna go and get some food." Just to sit and listen to them. To understand them. To hear their life story. To encourage them. To maybe pray for them. I've wanted to do this for so long, and 8 times I had my chance today.

But it's always "I don't have enough time" or "I'm not in the mood" or "I don't know what he'll say" etc. The fact is though, the #1 thing that stops many Christians, many Americans, from doing such charitable, radical love-giving: is fear. Fear of the unknown. What will happen? How will the man react? Will people stare if you walk in with him? Will he start rambling? Will he make a scene? Will he refuse your offer? Will you be embarrassed? All these swirl in my mind as I slowly look down at the sidewalk and pass by the man who does not know me, does not perhaps know a good meal, and even more importantly does not perhaps know love. Self-less love. Maybe invite him to church. Maybe not. I've learned that I've been ignoring a lot of God's callings to say and do things in my life because they're not the "social norms." There's this idea of a Status Quo (I would que High School Musical but I'm trying to be serious here for a second) - a way in which the world works. Diverting from such can leave you as a social leper. You don't follow the code and sometimes you will not get your way or what you want as easily.

But Jesus wasn't a follower of the Status Quo. He didn't stick to the social norms. He laid his hands on the outcasts, touched them, and gave them life. And if we, as Christians, are supposed to be the Hands and Feet of Jesus, why can't we? Why can't you? And why can't I?

It's about stepping out of out onto the water when God calls us, outside of our comfort bubble, outside of our known territory, and leaving our fear behind, changing the world with one small step at a time, as we move farther away from our heart and move closer towards His. If we can let God live through us, then what is there to fear?

New Goal for England: Take Homeless Guy to a Meal.

Thanks for listening to the rant. A little more serious than usual. I'll be back to the Steve Urkel jokes next time.

Until then!
- AustinLostinLondon

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Church-Hopping and Pick-Pocketing

Thus begins the part of my life that I believe will be very important in the coming weeks. No, I am not talking about the final availability of internet or the fact that my classes start in 4 days, and they're apparently much easier than my Wake classes (according to old Wake students). While the newest Season of House has started (and so has Heroes but I'm giving up on that show), that's not what I'm talking about either. LeCrae has not released a new album, John Piper a new book, or George Lucas a new movie (though I hear word has it that there'll officially be a new Indiana Jones V - REALLY GEORGE???) No - It's the fact that I've finally found the time to sit down, hop around like an ADHD kid at a candy store, and find a temporary home church.

The quest began Tuesday Night when I enthusiastically adjourned from my studies (aka facebook) and went to the tube to catch the train to Holy Trinity Brompton. Since my sense of direction is worth just about as much as Dennis Rodman's Chewing Gum, I would leave an hour and a half early to set out and find it.
It was on the other side of London after all. But a good church is worth it, eh? (Eh? <- I'm pretty sure I'm in the wrong country). We were warned of intense pick-pocketting all throughout the UK, so I therefore packed no books or Ipod, dumped all my credit cards into the back of my dresser, and went out with the expectation of inevitably being held at knife point in a dark alley somewhere in Central London. I put an extra 20 pounds in my prayer book in my back pocket, just in case he only took my wallet and I needed money to meander home. Mama would have been proud of the precautions I took.

Walking similar to that of Jason Bourne (always mindful of surroundings, looks like he has it all together, but has no idea what he's really doing), I strolled through the tube, going from place to place. I finally exited and roamed the street for a while, trying to find where on my map the streets were. But at last, I finally found it!... 45 minutes early.... well, at least I wasn't late? This for me is VERY good.

The group was friendly, social, and full of people who were like "Oh my gosh! You're American!" and made me use my American accent to say certain words, of which they would supposedly do their American impersonation back: their impersonation sounded like a cross between Uncle Sam and a drunken hick - I really hope I do not sound like this, and if I do, why do people talk to me?? I of course had to do my British impersonation back - they wanted to hear it! My words of choice: "'ello Govna!" To which everyone burst out laughing. I like these people. They invited me the next night to a going away party, which I was happy to be a part of. My new mate (a word I'm becoming more and more accustomed to using), Tom, showed me around and introduced me to "some fine English Ale." The Ale was so-so, but he was quite entertaining and showed me around all night. We've actually decided we're very much almost twin brothers in many different aspects. It's unfortunate he's going to Oxford in two weeks to study. I would have loved to go there with him too - but Wake made like the Grim Reaper and kinda killed my GPA.

The service itself was good, but I feel I am a creature who is not gung-ho over change. Anything that was different from Emmaus (college ministry back at home) I immediately did not like. I hope and pray this changes over time. That I can see ministry for what it is rather than what it is not. And I hope I can bring new ideas to whatever ministries I do here too. God-willing, I'd love to help out in whatever Student Ministry I'm in.

Speaking of Ministries, I went to the first meeting of the City University Christian Union last night. The most amazing part to me about City is that there is only one Christian Ministry, and that ministry has less than 20 people... A School of 10,000, and there are only a handful of Christians. While I'm disappointed there aren't greater numbers or choices as abundant as cases of Swine Flu at Wake, at the same time, I like this a whole lot. The goal of STS back at home was to unite the Christian body into one and to worship God. However, the goal has hardly been reached over the years I've been at Wake. Here at City, however, this is not the case. The Christians all really do meet, pray, minister, and hang out with each other. It's more like the days of old in the Roman Empire. They do not meet in a big lecture hall or a large cathedral, but just a simple, small classroom, where we sing worship to a CD because we do not have a single person in the room who can play an instrument (contrary to popular belief and facebook profile pictures , I am unable to play the guitar). All the Christians in the group are not casual Christians though. They are passionate about Christ and want to share Him with the world. There are hardly any lukewarm Christians in England. You either are or aren't. There is a sigma that comes with being an open Christian here. I almost wish America was more like this. There is no straddling the fence. I'm excited for the upcoming semester.

Ways you can be praying for me:
1. Time Management and Organization
2. Daily Quiet Time
3. My Grandfather is still ill.

Until Next Time!
- AustinLostinLondon

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Jet-Lag and Layovers are the Bane of my Existence

After rising early in the morning to take my 10:00am flight (somewhere around that time), after having gotten only 4 hours of sleep (finishing some last minute facebooking, forensics pieces for students, letters, packing, facebooking, more packing, and more facebooking), I arrived at the airport at 1:00pm after having a long flight with a woman who continued to talk to me about Democratic politics even though it was clearly apparent I was tired out of my mind and just wanted to sleep. Nonetheless, it's nice meeting new people, even if I will probably ever see them again (which is really odd if you think about - how many times do we meet people, make good conversation, and then end your parting with "I'll talk to you later".... ummm... I don't believe we will... unless I see you in heaven... which could be a probability I guess?.... but still, "talk to you later" is not the proper term to use there... What do we use there? "Bye!" feels so rushed and uncourteous, but you can't say anything with "talk to" or "see you", for both of these would be untrue... just food for thought...). So I slept lightly on the plane and then got off the plane and had a good ol' American Cheeseburger for the last time in a while. It had Tomato, Lettuce, Onion Rings, and BBQ Sauce *salivates in mouth*.

I then set out to look for my IFSA-Butler group, though didn't expect to find anyone 8 hours before take-off (yes, EIGHT HOURS). I find a good group though. About 6 or 7 girls. More people started to show up. Another girl. Another girl. Another girl.... jeez, were there any other guys doing this program? Some of the girls started talking about make-up... shoot me in the face...

Other guys did show up though. We talked about sports... I love the awkwardness that sometimes comes with meeting new people and after you've run out of all the "stereotypical" topics (Name? Hometown? College? Extracurriculars?). Some people can't stand it, but I revel in it... okay, that's a lie. I can't stand it either. I reverted back to my stereotypical topics of discussion I know a decent amount about: Sports and "back in the day." You won't believe how long a philosophical discussion on Harry Potter can last!

I found that of the 30-40 people who ended up being the group, only one other person was going to City University with me.

On the plane, I got to read the current book I'm trying to get through "Just Like Jesus," by Max Lucado. I'll be posting more about it I'm sure later... I then also found a girl who wants to find a good home church while here. We're going to go church hunting on Sunday (starting with Holy Trinity Brompton - which I think I'll at least enjoy).

Lastly, I hardly got any sleep on the plane (Economy compared to First-Class is like sleeping on a pile of jello comparatively to a pile of porcupines and midgets). Therefore, as soon as I got to my room, I slept for 4 hours.

Bad idea.

I then went to bed at 10 that night after a nice dinner with the other kids... and didn't actually "fall asleep" until 4:00am... It was a loonnnnggg day.

My battery's running low, hence the hurried rush to the end. I'll write more tomorrow. Until then!

- AustinLostinLondon

I've Started My Blog!

To chronicle my adventures through the depths and heart of London, from the pubs to the subs(ways)... i mean the chube... to tell of stories both of jahonkin' and jaheekin' sizes... from the big news of my wedding (which apparently will happen on November 29th of this year according to a facebook quiz... I am still single as of September 19th) to small news like spilling juice on my pants (excuse me England! TROUSERS!) making me look like I awkwardly urinated upon myself. I hope this serves as a vehicle for me to communicate my adventures to the world (aka my friends back at home who care enough to know what's going on in my meandering life). Thanks for reading and be prepared for stories of astounding adventure and abysmal awkwardness in an all-around astute way.

I will end with a dance. *dance*